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section heading icon     scholarly journal publishing

This page covers scholarly/technical journal publishing, arguably the area where the web has had most impact on traditional publishing practice.

It covers -

  • introduction
  • orientations
  • the serials crisis
  • responses
  • the independence movement
  • pre-prints, post-prints and archives

section marker icon     orientations

Towards Electronic Journals: Realities for Scientists, Librarians & Publishers (Washington: Special Libraries Association 2000) by Carol Tenopir & Donald King is essential reading, full of detailed figures and insights. The authors' responses to criticisms of that book are illuminating.

Robert Kling's 1995 introduction Controversies About Electronic Journals & Scholarly Communication retains its value. Kling coauthored the report Analyzing Visions of Electronic Publishing & Digital Libraries, usefully read before consulting major studies such as Jean-Claude Guedon's detailed work for the Association of Research Libraries on Beyond Core Journals & Licenses: The Paths to Reform Scientific Publishing.


section marker icon     the serials crisis

The May 1997 issue of the online Newsletter on Serials Pricing (NSP) featured Ken Rouse's article on The Serials Crisis In The Age of Electronic Access, arguing that institutions and individuals could not keep pace with the increasing cost of professional journals, whether online or in print. 

Recent updates suggest the situation hasn't improved. As a result there's increasing attention to suggestions for a new publishing framework. Debate essentially centres on who's paying for the free lunch.

The current model for commercial scholarly publishing (whether by businesses such as Elsevier or by scholarly/professional societies) assumes that subscription costs will be borne by academic or other institutions, which will provide scholars and employees with free access to the content.
Individuals without an institutional affiliation and institutions that lack the wherewithal for a subscription are denied access to much of the content.

The Free Online Scholarship (FOS) movement proposes an alternative model, in which organisations would use the web to publish content created by their staff - with supposedly greatly reduced costs - and make the content free to anyone who's online.
The nexus of funding would move from libraries (ie payments to publishers) to elsewhere within research institutions (faculties become publishers).

In Library Consumerism in the Digital Age, a paper by Johann van Reenen, librarians were castigated for "meekness" and scholars were urged to vote with their wallets. Terry Rohe more perceptively asked How Does Electronic Publishing Affect the Scholarly Communication Process?

In Lessons For the Future Of Journals, a paper for Nature's scholarly publishing forum, Carol Tenopir & Donald King summarised research on the use and costs of scientific journals from 1960 to 2000.

That is particularly useful because much of the polemic about online scholarly publishing isn't based on hard figures.
They question the "mistaken belief ... that new technologies can easily remedy any weakness in the system", cautioning against "all-or-nothing approaches — an entirely electronic system, or e-print servers or article databases totally replacing journals".

section marker icon     responses

In January 2001 the US Scholarly Resources & Academic Publishing Coalition (SPARC) released its Declaring Independence: A Guide to Creating Community Controlled Science Journals (DI).

Andrew Odlyzko, in a paper (PDF) for The Transition from Paper: A Vision of Scientific Communication in 2020 (London: Springer 00) was characteristically incisive in noting that

the entire mathematical literature collected over the centuries is perhaps 30 million pages, so digitizing it at a cost of $0.60 per page would cost $18 million, less than ten percent of the annual journal bill

In the mid 1990's Hal Varian argued that the economics driving e-publishing necessitated changes in the form of the scholarly journal. Tom Wilson's 1995 paper on Social & Economic Factors in Scholarly Electronic Communication and Electronic Journals and Scholarly Communication: A Citation and Reference Study, a paper by Steven Harter & Hak Kim, endorsed that argument. 

In the UK Judith Edwards wrote in the 1997 Ariadne on Electronic Journals: Problems or panacea?, while Bernard Hibbitts of the University of Pittsburgh questioned whether it was Last Writes?: Re-assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace

As an attitudinal study Philip McEldowney's 1995 masters thesis on Scholarly Electronic Journals: Trends & Academic Attitudes is becoming dated but is of interest. Andrew Treloar's 1999 doctoral thesis on Hypermedia Scholarly Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal (PDF) is substantial and backgrounds his Are E-Journals a new genre, or an old genre in a new medium? (PDF) and paper on Products & Processes: How Innovation and Product Life-Cycles Can Help Predict The Future Of The Electronic Scholarly Journal.

The proceedings of the  1998 International Council for Science Press (ICSU) Workshop on Economics, Real Costs & Benefits of Electronic Publishing in Science are also of value. That gathering followed the 1996 ICSU-UNESCO conference on Electronic Publishing in Science and Paul Ginsparg's 1996 report on Winners & Losers in the Global Research Village.

The JEP paper Designing Electronic Journals With 30 Years of Lessons from Print by Carol Tenopir & Donald King drew on a range of studies in suggesting that some journals should publish in both print and electronic formats.

section marker icon     the independence movement

Keith Raney's JEP paper Into A Glass Darkly questioned whether electronic publishing would result in significant savings while maintaining existing standards. A more positive view is evident in The Hundred Years War Started Today: An Exploration of Electronic Peer Review, a 1996 article by John Peters.

Iconoclast Steven Harnad advocated a revolution: scientists self-publishing without the involvement of the commercial publishers. That call was endorsed by the Public Library of Science (PLS), which by May 2002 had gained over 30,000 signatories but failed to achieve a major boycott of science publishers.

His arguments are expanded by Okerson and others in Scholarly Communications At The Crossroads, noted above, in Thomas Walker's paper The electronic future of scientific journals, and in the SPARC project described by Mark Rambler in Do It Yourself: A New Solution to the Journals Crisis. 

The British journal Nature hosts an ongoing online debate about electronic access to primary scientific literature.

section marker icon     pre-prints, post-prints and archives

[under development]




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version of June 2007
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